Obama huddles with Hispanic groups to woo support for 2012 race
President Barack Obama is hosting a White House meeting for Hispanic advocacy groups Monday, just a week after a Gallup poll of Hispanic voters revealed potentially lethal news for his re-election chances.
The Gallup poll showed that Obama’s support among Hispanics fell almost a third in the last 18 months, down from 73 percent in December 2009 to 52 percent in June 2011. That’s very bad news for Democrats, because Obama’s re-election strategy depends on a Hispanic landslide in swing states such as Florida and Virginia.
On July 7, White House senior aide David Plouffe said the president’s re-election campaign would win on a wave of votes from blacks and Hispanics. “We believe that we can improve over what we did in 2008 in turnout in some of those base Obama groups,” he told reporters at a breakfast organized by Bloomberg’s political news operation in Washington, D.C.
The Hispanic community is critical to the campaign, because it includes a large pool of potentially sympathetic new voters who could offset Obama’s low ratings of 38 percent among white voters and 39 percent among seniors.
Which is why Marco Rubio would make a good VP choice for the GOPers. If he drags in a big chunk of Hispanic voters that will put Florida in the GOP column and might even put California in play.
Simply putting a Hispanic-American on the ticket is no guarantee however. That is because (contrary to common belief) the Hispanic community is not monolithic. That community includes Cuban-Americans (like Rubio,) Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans as well as people of Central-American, South-American and Dominican descent.
It’s difficult to generalize because these sub-groups do not all care about the same things. For instance, illegal immigration is not a big issue with Cubans and Puerto Ricans. On the other hand Hispanics tend to be conservative on some issues like abortion because the majority of them are Catholic.
One dirty little secret – they don’t all like each other.
BTW – Remember Donna Brazile’s “new coalition?”
Obama’s support among Latinos is also complicated by the tensions between Hispanic and black communities. This became visible in the Democrats’ 2008 primary races, when most Hispanic-subgroups supported Sen. Hillary Clinton more than then-Sen. Obama. In Texas, for example, Clinton outpolled Obama by 18 points among Hispanic men and 33 percent among Hispanic women, most of whom have roots in Mexico. Clinton also out-polled Obama in the Puerto Rican primary vote by 36 percent. Some Hispanics tell phone-surveyors, Anderson said, that Obama “‘is catering too much to blacks’ and if you’re picking that up on a survey, it’s out there.”
That’s the Achilles’ heel of identity politics. When you cater to one group you run the risk of alienating others.